We draw it so it looks
like a deer’s footprint, smoothing
its redness into a shape we can fill
with sweetness or a track we can follow
through the wilderness of our lives
into a clearing we call love
or sometimes, mercy—Have a heart, we say—
as if one didn’t need the other,
as if the heart didn’t break.
In a small white room
I saw my heart, after it broke.
It swam up from the dark,
a blind, albino shape, thick
and writhing, twisting and sinking back
in shadows as if it shunned the light
it could only feel, not see.
And it made a sound, not like a slack drum,
but like the whip-poor-will
I listened to as a boy, singing on spring evenings
at the edge of the woods—
but sibilant now and urgent,
as if a little hoarse from all the years
of calling out its name to the unanswering dark.
I close my eyes and I can see it,
and sometimes, in quiet moments before sleep,
I imagine I hear it singing still,
so that the woods return, and the boy,
and the spring evenings—
O love, O mercy,
O passing years!
- Peter Everwine, From The Meadow (University of Pittsburg Press, 2004)